I am Proud of Being a Female Forester in Nepal

When she was a child, 38 years old Lilu Magar, who holds a master in forestry, used to see her mother and grand mother bring forest products from the nearby woods. “Since then, I perceived the forest a part of our lives. For me, to be a woman in this sector makes me feel that I am breaking the stereotype that a woman can’t do a tough job,” she opens up the interview.

At present Lilu Magar is an assistant Professor at the Agriculture and Forestry University (AFU)  in Kathmandu, Nepal.

DFE: How is it for you to be a woman in the forestry sector?
Lilu Magar: In my childhood days, I used to see my mother, grandmother and other women bring forest products from the nearby forest.  

DFE: How are women represented in the sector in your country? 

Lilu Magar: When I got my entrance exam for the forestry college, there was a 10% reservation provision for women and there were fewer female students compared to male students. Today, female students make up almost 50% of all students at forestry institutes and universities. 

In the field, the representation of women is increasing in planning, implementation, and monitoring. According to the government’s community forest directive, there must be at least 50% women in the Community Forest User Groups, and it has become mandatory that the 1st and 2nd post in the management committee should be women. 

Thus, the active engagement of women in forest development has increased, but regardless of this, the majority of decisions are still very influenced by male members. Also, the higher up in the forestry sector you look, the less women you see. On the policy level, there are very few. Women have to join their voices and speak loudly to make decisions in favor of women. 

DFE: Do you think you have different motives, goals, skills and practices than your male colleagues? Please elaborate.

Lilu Magar: The lens of the eye is different for women and men. The men can’t see what I see. I can feel the discriminations and harassment women face during different stages of experiences, in college, in the village, in the office or other places. I don’t think male colleagues feel that. Their general behavior and the way they speak is also sometimes making me feel shy and uneasy. 

DFE: Have you faced any form of discrimination tied to your status or your work? 

Lilu Magar: I have been doubted in my abilities just because I am a woman and because I belong to an ethnic community. Some have taunted me, saying that I got the job because of social inclusion provisions to include female from indigenous community. However, I know that I am capable, experienced and qualified.  When I was breastfeeding my baby, my male director gave me a hard time saying that I was not giving my best because I had kept my baby with me, which was totally wrong.  So, I feel that I have faced discrimination several times.

DFE: Do you think that women have different competences that can make changes in beating climate changes and secure sustainable forests? Why?

Lilu Magar: Women have their strong networks and commitments around their locality, for example mother’s groups and women cooperatives. Women have important practical experience and local knowledge in ethno-botany. This knowledge can help secure sustainable forests and beat climate change.

DFE: Can you share with us an interesting story or experience that you have heard or experienced, and that is related to women in forestry?

Lilu Magar: In 2010, I visited a forest user group in a village called Judibela, where the forest management committee was comprised of women. In Judibela the villagers successfully claimed government support for the restoration of 30 ha of forest land which had been flooded and filled with sand and gravel siltation. The District Soil Conservation Office supported the group with bioengineering practices and UNDP provided social mobilization and financial support.  I was impressed with the women of that village who played an important role for sustainable forest management. I am proud to be a female forester in Nepal. I learned many things form my field when I was a student, as a development worker and now as a professor. I work alongside my male colleagues for the betterment of the local communities through forest conservation and management.